Making the Best Even Better: Benelli’s New Super Black Eagle 3 – Full Review.

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Twenty-six years after the introduction of the original Super Black Eagle by Benelli made waves among waterfowlers and shotgun fans in general, the company continues to set the standard for auto-loading shotguns with its third variant of the inertia-driven scattergun. When first introduced in 1992, the prevalent thought among waterfowlers was that pump-action shotguns were the only way to go. In conditions where freezing water, mud or the corrosive action of salt water could wreak havoc on the potential operation of an auto-loading action, the manual operation of the pump-gun was simply more reliable, since human hands could force the ejection of a shell after firing and there were fewer intricate (and presumably delicate) parts.

The new Super Black Eagle 3 from Benelli takes everything that makes the SBE great and makes it even better. Image courtesy of manufacturer.

Chambered for the increasingly popular 3½-inch magnum shotshells of the time and operating near flawlessly in countless harsh environments with every size shell you could throw at it, the Super Black Eagle came to reshape the pump-action versus auto-loading argument for waterfowl guns. Today, while pump actions still hold a rightful place among many waterfowlers, more blinds, boats and pits now shelter hunters clutching fast-cycling semi-autos, Benelli or otherwise. This is certainly the case wherever I have traveled and hunted.

In recognition that this shotgun will be used in frigid conditions, it features an oversized bolt handle, oversized bolt release, oversized safety button and larger trigger guard for gloved hands. Image courtesy of manufacturer.

Make no mistake, however, the Benelli’s Super Black Eagle remains at the pinnacle and indeed, there are still quite a few of those first variants still in use on ducks, geese, turkey, dove and even deer. More so in use is the Super Black Eagle II, which came along some years later with a level of design refinements over the original that only built on the line’s legacy. Now, in 2017, the famed Italian gunmaker, brings us the Super Black Eagle 3 (now denoted with an Arabic numeral rather than the Roman one) with another level of refinements designed to make this shotgun even more utilitarian than it already was—particularly for waterfowlers, if you can imagine that.


  • Chambering: 12 Ga, 2¾- to 3½-inch
  • Barrel: 26-28 inches, Crio treated
  • OA Length:6-49.6 inches
  • Weight:05 lbs. (26-inch), 7.2 lbs. (28-inch)
  • Stock: synthetic with ComfortTech system and CombTech cheekpad
  • Sights: Red-bar front, metal bead mid-sight
  • Action: Semi-auto
  • Finish: Black synthetic or three camouflage options (Realtree Max-5, Gore Optifade or Mossy Oak Bottomlands)
  • Capacity: 2+1
  • MSRP: $1,899 (black), $1,999 (camo)

The author received the shotgun too late for waterfowl season, so he and a friend put it through its paces on the skeet range.

So, What’s New?

Key among the Super Black Eagle 3’s (SBE 3) dozens of new features designed to improve the look, feel and performance of the shotgun is the addition of an “Easy Locking System” on the very popular inertia-driven action. This system is designed to eliminate that issue where the gun won’t fire or cycle because the breech isn’t closed all the way due to a shooter trying to softly close the bolt. There has always been the small issue—and one not uncommon among other autoloaders as well—that softly closing the bolt could prevent it from locking into battery. Thus, the typical slamming shut of the action and loud clank of metal on metal common when loading before hunting. The bolt could also be hit when handled roughly causing it to unlock and not fire as well. These were rare instances, but they did happen. Hopefully, no more.

To ease use with gloved hands, the shotgun has a redesigned magazine cap that has grooved texturing and an almost triangular shape. Image courtesy of manufacturer.

Because the bulk of good waterfowling action takes place in ridiculously frigid conditions (some of the coldest hunting I have ever endured was spent looking skyward for incoming ducks), a number of the Super Black Eagle 3’s enhancements are centered around making the shotgun easier to operate when wearing heavy gloves or suffering from cold hands. Along these lines are an oversized bolt handle, oversized bolt release, oversized safety button, larger trigger guard, redesigned magazine cap that has grooved texturing and an almost triangular shape to provide easier gripping, and an enlarged loading port when fast reloads are required. When hands are frigid and numb or sheathed in heavy gloves, a person’s ability to perform detailed functions with their fingers diminish. With the larger controls, everything becomes easier to manipulate.

The author found the enlarged trigger guard to be generously sized and ideal for gloved hands.

Ensuring proper shooter-to-firearm fit, a key, but often overlooked aspect of promoting good marksmanship, is enhanced in the SBE 3. For many of us, off-the-rack shotgun models are what-you-see-is-what-you-get in so far as cast, drop and length-of-pull are concerned. Shotguns are made to fit an “average” size and those of us who fall outside of those measurements simply adjust our hold, form or sacrifice a little comfort and alignment when attempting to hit or swing on a target. The other option is to purchase aftermarket stocks or go with a custom or even higher-end shotgun. Benelli helps tackle this issue in the SBE 3 courtesy of the shotgun’s new Easy Fitting System, which includes a shim kit that allows for as many as eight different cast and drop configurations in order to better fit a wider array of sportsmen and women.

The shotgun has a “red bar” fiber optic front sight that mates up with a mid-rib bead.

Additional features include a more rounded and even slimmer feeling stock and forend, which is designed to promote smoother shouldering and swinging on passing targets. The face of the trigger is also slightly rounded, easing the hard edges common to most triggers and improving the mounting of the finger along its surface.

Because recoil certainly comes into play when banging away using heavy magnum 3- or 3½-inch loads, the SBE 3 does even more to mitigate felt recoil through its third-generation ComforTech stock and Combtech cheek pad. Indeed, the cheek pad is even more cushiony than its predecessors virtually eliminating the soft bruising some shooters feel on their cheeks after a long morning of high volume shooting. The internal stock dampers, designed to dissipate shock waves and redirect the energy of recoil so it doesn’t plant squarely into the shoulder, along with a soft, generously thick butt pad all combine to tame even the harshest, shoulder-rocking recoil.

The SBE 3 is available in four flavors of finish: A matte black synthetic, Realtree Max-5 camo, Gore Optifade Timber camo and Mossy Oak Bottomlands camo. It can also be had in two barrel lengths—either a 26-inch Crio-treated barrel or a 28-inch Crio-treated one—giving the new SBE 3 basically eight configurations from which to choose.

To the Test

My editor at offered me the chance to try out the new SBE 3, and jumped at the opportunity. Once in hand, I caught up with my good friend and longtime firearm technical expert, Kurt Derwort, who has been an avid fan of the Super Black Eagle since its inception, and perhaps more than any guide or hardcore waterfowler has tested its operation in the blinds and duck boats of America. Derwort, a retired naval armorer who once serviced and maintained the firearms for many of our elite Naval special forces and now works as a gunsmith, often assists me on gun tests. He has probably forgotten more about firearms than many of us could ever hope to know.

The author put some shot downrange with the Benelli and came away very impressed. He also patterned it to check its performance.

The sample I was sent was a camo model—it came in Realtree Max-5—with a 26-inch barrel. Benelli had explained that demand for test guns was high as all the gun media sought to cover the new SBE 3’s introduction, but did have the 26-inch for testing. The longer shotguns are generally preferred by waterfowlers with the idea that longer barrel promotes smoother swinging on fast flying targets and because shot is traveling a little farther contained in the barrel, patterns hold together longer.

I discussed this with Derwort, and his take was that the difference when it comes to shot performance is negligible. With today’s modern interchangeable and specialty choke tubes, along with improvements in shotgun shell technology, patterns are going to be delivered as needed no matter (within reason) the length of the barrel the shot must travel. As for swinging on target, you either know how to shoot at moving targets or you don’t. More shooters will be better served working on improving technique than trying to make up for it with minor changes in configuration.

Frankly, a shorter gun makes sense in the tight confines of a pit blind or duck boat (less length means less chance to be in the way and knocked around) and in particular Derwort told me his shotguns all often pull double duty on turkeys in spring where shorter barrels are better maneuvered around brush and trees when set-up on a bird that doesn’t come in from the direction anticipated.

Because recoil certainly comes into play when banging away using heavy magnum 3- or 3½-inch loads in a gun like this, the Super Black Eagle 3 employs a third-generation ComforTech stock and Combtech cheek pad.

With waterfowl season unfortunately over by the time I could get the shotgun in hand, Derwort and I set the stage for testing it on the skeet range to get a feel for its fit and function. As a result, we kept to 2¾-inch shells appropriate for the range. I hope to be able to get one of these out into the blinds at some point and wring it out with some 3½-inch shells in the field.

In the month or so we had the shotgun, Derwort performed an initial breakdown and cleaning of it to remove the oils put there during the manufacturing process to protect it until sold. Since that time, we have put more than 1,100 shotgun shells through the gun without another cleaning and, most importantly, without a single misfire or jam. In pattern testing, I put at least another 50 through the SBE 3, both magnum waterfowl loads and low-brass field loads, and it performed just as flawlessly … a true benefit for lazy gunowners like me who really don’t feel like cleaning the gun after every single outing.

Target Time

To test the new Super Black Eagle III, I fired 12-gauge, 2¾-inch Winchester AA Super Handicap Heavy Target Loads with 1 1/8 ounces of No. 7½ shot and Federal Premium Target Loads (12-gauge, 2¾-inch as well) filled with 1 ounce of No. 7½ shot. A modified choke was used for testing both loads.


In the hand, the SBE 3 feels exactly like you would expect from a $2,000 shotgun. Every aspect of the shotgun has been given consideration on how to make it better function and perform on the range and in the field. The forend is slender and contoured for human hands, gloved or ungloved, to fit easily and naturally around it. The bottom of the forend, like the pistol grip, is textured for improved grip. I’ve already mentioned the many ergonomic enhancements of this new shotgun to aid operation with gloved or cold hands.

And at just over 7 pounds, the SBE 3 is nimble on the swing and handles like a gem. While writing this my 9-year-old walked in and asked if he could hold the shotgun. A hunter and shooter, he understands safe gun handling skills, the first of which is to always ask before ever touching a firearm. I granted him permission and he checked to ensure it was unloaded and then held it safely pointed toward the floor as if shooting at a rabbit.

The heart of the Super Black Eagle 3 is the inertia driven recoil system that eschews gas operation for cycling the action and is extremely rugged.

“It’s so light. How do they make a gun like this so light?” he quipped noting that it felt like it weighed less than his 20-gauge pump-action shotgun. Truly with synthetic stock material and slim stock technology, as well as the fewer-parts inertia-driven action, Benelli is able to shave the weight down for a light-handling shotgun.

If I were to find any flaw in the gun at all, it would with several tiny imperfections in the camo dip process on the barrel. Running our fingers along the otherwise pristinely smooth surface, there were some barely noticeable bumps where the seam of the camo finish came together on the bottom of the barrel. They were so small as to be invisible, but could certainly be felt when running your fingers along the bottom surface. It is nothing any of us would be worried about, but something for engineers and quality control teams at Benelli to simply keep an eye on.

Beyond that, the SBE 3 was a hit with everyone who held it and shot it at the skeet range. With its refinements, it not only continues the Super Black Eagle legacy of quality and supreme performance, but builds on that chiseled legacy. Just as it was on the range, no doubt the SBE 3 will be the same hit in the duck blinds of America.

For more information, visit

To purchase on, click this link:

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • SL May 6, 2018, 12:27 pm

    The article says the SBE 3 comes in two barrel lengths and is great for waterfowl. Sure, but it also comes in a 24″ version with a rifled barrel for slugs re deer hunting.

  • Gerald Wolff September 29, 2017, 5:28 pm

    I have a Super Black Eagle II and it shoots 15 inches high and 6\8 inches to the right. Have used many different chokes and its still the same. What can I do to improve this situation ? Its a left hand operation gun I haven’t messed with the shims.

  • robert September 18, 2017, 8:49 am

    I have a Benelli Vinci that shoots high/left. I put a different shim in the gun and now it’s only about 8″ higher than POI. But it’s about 90% left of center. It makes missing targets to the left easy to do. POI different than POA seems to be a problem with a significant number of Benelli guns. It was discussed on a site that I frequent – but nobody has a fix (there is none) and Benelli is conspicuously absent. They say this is within standard tolerance. If Benelli wants to produce a gun that shoots a foot high and 90% left, then they should advertise it as a feature. Buyer beware.

  • ryan pannell September 10, 2017, 3:12 am

    Don’t even bother about the camo. I bought a super vinci back as soon as they came out and ended up sending it back because of a hard chunk on the barrel and a run on the side of the receiver. Was max 5 but if they didn’t do any better from then to now I don’t see it happening.

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